The nation’s airports are once again making headlines, but this time poor weather isn’t the culprit. Insufficient post-hire screening policies for airport employees, in particular those with access to airplanes and tarmacs, have been exposed following a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Transportation Security. The issue came to light after a CNN investigation uncovered that only two major U.S. airports have a security system that requires employees to undergo daily screening before performing their jobs.
This is the part that is really confusing and disappointing:
“There is no federal requirement that the baggage handlers, mechanics, cleaning crews and other employees with access to the airfield and other secure areas get screened as passengers do. They are typically subject to a criminal background check and might get randomly screened while at work. By contrast, those who work at the gates, such as restaurant employees, pass through TSA security checkpoints.” – as reported by CNN
Operational and Cost Challenges
So why don’t more airports routinely screen existing employees? If you’re to believe Miguel Southwell, the general manager of Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (where three major security breaches, including a gun smuggling operation, recently occurred) it’s because full-scale screening is too expensive and too hard to maintain.
Here’s his exact written statement:
“We recognize that 100% screening of airport employees has operational and cost challenges.”
The fact is, though, that there are plenty of viable, long-term, routine screening options available for large operations, including those in the transportation and government industries. Consulting with a nationally-accredited backgrounding agency like Active Screening that has customizable platforms for pre-employment screening and post-hire routine screening, is a solid place to start.
The most confusing aspect of the discovery that thousands of airport employees aren’t given follow-up background checks, and routinely report to their jobs without any daily security screening, is that billions of dollars per year are spent on passenger screening – you know, people like us who don’t have access to aircraft and tarmacs like airport and airline employees do. It’s enough to make Rep. John Katko, R-New York, chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, wonder:
“What good is all the screening at the front door if we are not paying attention enough at the back door? The answer is common sense.”
Post-Hire Screening Makes Sense
A government report shows that costs for full screening of airport and airline employees could run between $5.7 to $14.9 billion for the first year. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) budget for 2015 is $7.3 billion. Clearly, there is a money issue. No one argues that.
There are several ways to implement routine, post-hire background checks. If cost is a concern, check out this creative solution courtesy of a Minnesota school district. Or, read this post about a bill making the rounds that would mandate routine background checks for teachers – it’s full of money-saving ideas (hint: employees should pay for their own follow-up background checks).
Letting the potential cost of post-hire screening determine your actions now, can cost you big time in the end. When it comes to protecting your employees and the thousands, or maybe millions, of people visiting our nation’s airports everyday, it seems like common sense to spend the money on such a worthwhile cause.
We like this statement that CNN procured from a Miami-based security expert:
“We have a saying in our business: Budget driven security will always fail.”
Wondering how you can make this happen for your own business? Consult with a member of our talented team of experts.